- Associated Press - Friday, December 19, 2014

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - To appreciate the history behind the Sanford House, start with the wallpaper mural in the grand entrance hall of the 168-year-old pillared landmark.

Depicting scenes of life in the Americas in the 1820s, the design is called Vues d’Amérique du Nord. It was created by Jean Zuber, a French artist whose company made luxury handmade wall coverings in the late 19th Century, according to The Grand Rapids Press (https://bit.ly/1yKkk6T ).

In 1960, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy salvaged the same woodblock-printed wallpaper and installed it in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House. You’ll also find the pattern in the dining room of the Old Governor’s Mansion in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and the elegant Monmouth Historic Inn in Natchez, Mississippi.

Zuber never visited America, but painted scenes from places and events about which he had heard and read. Hence, Boston Harbor has tropical Spanish moss hanging from its trees and the “Indians” look like they are from India, not North America.

Rae Green, who restored the house in Grand Rapids with her husband, David, said she’s amazed the murals have survived all of the owners and non-profit agencies who have occupied the home since the wallpaper was installed during a 1907 remodeling.

“There have been stories that some of the owners almost took it down,” said Green, who will operate Sanford House as a private treatment center for women with addictions to alcohol and drugs.

The Greens bought the house for $365,000 in July after it served as an office building for several health and recovery-related agencies over the previous 23 years. Since then, they have invested more than $1 million while restoring and remodeling the home for its next life.

Green makes no apologies for the plush setting, the in-house chef or the $20,000-per-month fee they will charge their clients. Out-patient clients will be charged $600 a week for three-hour thrice-weekly sessions.

“There is so much stigma when it comes to someone getting treatment for substance abuse,” she said. “Sometimes, the stigma is even greater for women.

“We want to create an environment that was comfortable so they could focus on the work that they are there to do and restore their lives and the lives of their families.”

“Sometimes, you need an easy place to be to do the hard work you have to do,” said Clinical Director Christine Walkons.

The Greek Revival mansion was originally built in 1847 by Samuel Sanford, the city’s first pharmacist and one of the first county clerks. It was badly damaged by a fire in 1891 and rebuilt according to its original design.

The front pillars, hewn from trees that were harvested on the property by Sanford, saw 150 years of lead-based paint removed. While the home will not have a sign, the pillared entrance will serve as the home’s signature, Green said.

While the exterior of the Heritage Hill home and its carriage house were restored to their original appearance, the interior has have been updated to serve the 10 residents and staff that will provide them with the counseling and medical services they need.

Starting with the wallpaper in the majestic entrance, the interior retains much of its original character. The oak flooring is original to the house, carefully restored after commercial carpeting and its tacky glue was removed, Green said.

The French doors from the library to the front porch were rebuilt in their original style and function. The stamping in the original soapstone mantle on the library’s fireplace has been adopted as the Sanford House logo.

The chandeliered living room has been decorated to serve as a meeting and media room for the home’s residents. Another main floor parlor serves as the resident manager’s office.

Meals will be shared in a dining room that was refitted with a pass-through to an updated galley-style kitchen where Chef Leslie Rulewicz will prepare meals beneath three large windows overlooking the side yard.

In the old servant quarters in back of the house, the staff will work from several offices that are accessible to a private entrance that offers confidentiality for patients and their families.

Upstairs, there are five bedrooms, each with a pair of twin beds and a different color scheme. The bedrooms were furnished by Windsor Cottage to reflect the home’s history and style.

The upstairs also was outfitted with four bathrooms - three with walk-in showers and a half-bath - for the residents. There’s also a meeting room and office for the medical staff.

Outside, the former garage and carriage house has been remodeled into an outpatient center, where clients can gather for group sessions in a large room with comfortable leather chairs and a built-in snack bar.

Offering services similar to the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s clinics, Walkons said they expect to draw clientele from throughout the Midwest.

“I don’t believe there is any other gender-specific for-profit center for women in Michigan,” said Walkons, noting they sent out 5,000 postcards announcing their opening throughout the United States.

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